FONTANA The Stingray 806 should have been on a race track this weekend.

Instead, the car built from the ground up as a fuel efficient prototype by Barstow High School auto shop students sits idle in its namesake classroom, Room 806.

This was supposed to be the year that 12th-grader George Jaramillo and fellow students, who call themselves the Az-Techs, revved up the Stingray 806, which they had constructed from scrap metal to compete with about 40 other high school and college teams from around the world at the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana at the Shell Eco-marathon, to see how far their cars can go.

The Az-Techs missed the competition last year in the high school's first year with the program.

Then this year, state budget cuts forced a district budget freeze, stopping the project in its tracks, according to auto shop instructor Chris Hele. They were about $1,000 short on supplies, Hele said.

"It was a little upsetting," said Jaramillo. "I [saw] it in the other students' faces."

Despite being unable to compete, Hele decided to take Jaramillo and other students who worked on the car and trek down to Fontana, visiting the Petersen Automotive Museum and National Hot Rod Association Museum Wednesday and watching the races on Thursday during the high school's spring break.

Hele believes watching the competition, where cars usually travel at speeds between 15- to 20-miles-per-hour, can still be a learning experience. This year's competition includes teams from as far away as Punjab, India, and Rochester, New York.

"They're going to get inspired," Hele said.

That's exactly what prompted Jaramillo and other auto shop students to create the Stingray 806 this year. Last school year, the Az-Techs took a gutted riding lawnmower and aimed to build it into a vehicle that could average between 1,600 to 1,800 miles per gallon. After checking out the competition last spring, the team decided to scrap that project and start fresh with the idea of a three-wheeled car.

"We learned a lot of different things we're using this year," said Jaramillo.

"We could have been a good competitor if we got some more funding and materials," said eleventh-grader Dillion Norris. BHS would have been one of eight California high schools competing against groups from colleges like the University of Arizona and the University of California, Berkeley.

However, Jaramillo remains optimistic. Even after graduating from BHS, Jaramillo, who will interview to enroll in auto mechanics at the Universal Technical Institute in Rancho Cucamonga in June, said he plans to visit his former auto shop class helping out his teacher and giving other students pointers.

"We're not giving up," said Jaramillo.

Contact the writer:
(760) 256-4122 or elee@desertdispatch.com